Compared to some Mediterranean countries, the UK suffers relatively little from forest fires. Nevertheless, they do occur, especially in areas where grass pasture, heathland occur in close proximity, or where rides and other non planted areas support inflammable vegetation at certain times of the year. For example, in south Wales, grass fires cost £4.5million between 2006 and 2007. Fire is almost certain to become an increasing factor affecting the condition and longevity of some woods and forest areas in sensitive areas, and climate change is likely to be a contributory factor.
Forest Research is taking an active interest in forest fires, and is working with others to strengthen the ability to predict where these may occur. Our intensive forest monitoring network provides useful ecosystem data to help in the development of predictive models.
The social context of forest fires set deliberately by arsonists is also being studied in south Wales.
The Forestry Commission and other stakeholders have recognised that it is important to monitor the number, type, location and possible causes of fires which affect the forests it manages. In this way we can learn more about the possible links to climate change, and thus how better to plan for and manage fires as we move into hotter and drier conditions.
The UK Vegetation Fire Standard has been developed to provide a standard for the reporting of vegetation (including forest) fires.